Alzheimer’s Disease: summarize our current understanding
of the disease and discuss prospects for therapy.
Alzheimer’s Disease, first classified in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer, is a disease that has been part of our society for over a century. In 2006 it was estimated that there were 26.6 million people worldwide suffering from the degenerative neurological disease1. Currently there are no treatments available that prevent the disease but some success has been made in finding ways to slow down the symptoms and effects. Unfortunately these treatments do remain relatively palliative. Very little is known about the definitive cause of Alzheimer’s although there are many different theories all with their own validity.
For hundreds of years it was assumed that dementia was caused solely by old age. It was in 1901 that Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, diagnosed the first case of Alzheimer’s disease; the sufferer was a middle-aged German woman Augusta Deter. After her passing Alzheimer published the case for the first time2. A common misconception of the disease was that it only affected people in the middle age range typically 45-65. However this theory was rubbished in 1977 when the terminology changed at a conference, when it was determined that the symptoms of senile and pre-senile dementia were almost identical. Because of this, the classification of the disease became independent of the sufferer3. Alzheimer’s can affect a person at any time, in the age ranges of their thirties to their eighties and nineties. Although the disease does not cause death, it is usually a primary factor as the sufferer could die from pneumonia or a particularly bad fall due to impaired motor functions caused by the disease.
Though it isn’t definitively known how the disease is contracted or begins, there is extensive research on how it may start and how it affects the person. It...